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Caffeine: Negative Impacts

By: Karen Zhu

Caffeine is a chemical compound found in a large variety of foods and drinks. “Caffeine is naturally occurring in more than sixty types of plants,” says clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical center in Columbus, Sophia Tolliver. It is odorless and has a bitter taste to it. It is found most in cocoa products like chocolate, teas, sodas, and coffees. Caffeine is commonly found in products around us, and most of us are familiar with it. Many people are aware that consuming large amounts of caffeine may cause health problems but cannot control themselves as caffeinated products become popular.

"Caffeine can have both beneficial and detrimental side effects, depending on dose," says Lisa Cooper, a registered dietitian with Orlando Health in Florida. "If taken in moderation, caffeine can increase alertness and reduce tiredness. It can also improve athletic performance by delaying fatigue." A 75-mg serving of caffeine can increase attention and alertness, and a 160 to 600-mg dose may improve mental alertness, speed reasoning, and memory. Researchers have linked the consumption of three cups of caffeinated coffee a day with a 21% lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (a type of cancerous tumor of the epithelial tissue) in women, and a 10% lower risk in men, compared with drinking less than one cup per month.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that the upper daily limit for caffeine is 400 milligrams per day. That is roughly 4 cups of coffee, 10 cans of cola, or 2 energy drinks. In the United States, more than 90% of adults consume caffeine regularly, with an average consumption of more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. Some well-known coffees, like Starbucks have far exceeded the limit, and have around 310-330 milligrams of caffeine per 16 ounces. For most people, consuming around 400 mg of caffeine is not harmful, but if people consume a lot more than 400 milligrams, there may be health consequences. This includes restlessness and shakiness, insomnia, nausea, seizures, vomiting, jitters, acid reflux, headaches, dizziness, fast heart rates, dehydration, and anxiety.

With that being said, large amounts of caffeine can be dangerous, and Tolliver recommends "practicing some mindful breathing exercises and going for some physical activity with a walk or bike ride," when feeling jittery.

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